Philip Graden

Marian Croak – The Curious Problem Solver

How would businesses, schools, health care providers – families and entire communities – stay connected during the pandemic without communication applications like Zoom or WebEx?

The question is largely moot thanks to Dr. Marian Croak. Croak is the woman credited with the development of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line.

At the young age of five, Croak’s intuition and desire to think critically and solve problems was obvious. When something was in need of repair, her mother would call a repairman to come solve the issue. Whether a plumber, electrician, or carpenter, Croak would follow them throughout the house, asking questions and tinkering with their tools. Although Croak was young, she was not naïve. She realized that all the plumbers, electricians and carpenters were men. Croak set her mind to changing the status quo.

Fast forward to high school where her passion and curiosity to problem solve grew. Croak often credits her teachers for stimulating her mind and nurturing her passion for math and science. She went on to graduate from Princeton University and then earn a Ph.D. in quantitative analysis from the University of Southern California in 1982. She graduated on a Friday, and the following Monday she began her career at AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Beginning her career as a black woman in a male-dominated STEM field never phased Croak. She worked hard, often spending her “free time” on the weekends developing patents that would change the way the world works. Croak’s work encompassed more than 200 projects and patents; her most famous being VoIP. Croak had a hunch when the internet first became popular predicting that IP and the internet “were going to explode.” Safe to say she was correct. Croak acted on that hunch and developed a technology that would “transform the internet” – VoIP was born.

Who knew that a multi-billion dollar industry of global companies offering VoIP services would follow? We often take it for granted, but without Croak – and especially during a time like this – our lives would be completely different. Here at USTelecom, we thank Dr. Marian Croak for developing this transformative technology designed to connect people around the globe. We also thank Croak for inspiring future #WomenInTech to stay true to themselves, be curious and solve problems, and chase their dreams.